Part of me growing up as a kid was waiting every single morning for our neighborhood-friendly postman. And if it wasn’t the mailman, it is whoever comes knocking at our door. To a kid, a surprise is really a big deal. Anyone that comes though our door aside from the members of the family is always a surprise for me. Much so and intensity level brightens up my day especially when these people has something for me in return of my enthusiasm of opening the door and greeting them with my big smile. What they usually have in store for me is a piece of paper. My heart usually jumps out with joy as this piece of paper says that I’m required (by all means) to attend a special occasion. For kids, there can be no other special occasion so dear and so sweeter than a Birthday! (That’s aside from Christmas, New Year’s Day, Easter Egg hunts, Halloween’s trick or treats, and lots more.)
Birthdays. Why do most people (especially kids) look forward of having and celebrating one? What’s really in it that makes it so important in each one’s lives? We’ll try to discuss everything about what you really want to know about birthdays. Read on and please, don’t touch (or click) that browser…
1. Meaning and History. “Birthday” is described by our sources, as the name given to the date of the annual event (anniversary) of a person’s birth. It is a global or universal practice for people to celebrate this specific day.
During earlier times, people don’t have these birthday celebrations (how sad!) as they still don’t know how to keep track of the things that are happening around them. What they initially had in mind were the basic ones (tracking time using their updated sun dials version 7.0.9). It was when the talks about the cycle of the moon was brought up when the idea of keeping track of the changing of the seasons as well as of taking note and doing some markings regarding time changes on their tablatures-Pro (with plug-ins and upgrades), that the idea of having a birthday came to exist. (Note: their records then wasn’t equipped with set alarms yet)
2. Celebration. The history of celebrating birthdays are accounted way back as they were regarded as a form of protection from the evil spirits. Ancient beliefs has it that a person is more prone to danger and more prone to provoke evil spirits each time he or she turns a year older. To prevent this from happening, the person’s friends and family would gather around bringing good cheers, thoughts and wishes. They also give gifts to the birthday celebrant. Giving more gifts to the celebrant wards off and scares the evil spirits.
In today’s modern world, a birthday isn’t a birthday without the celebration. The usual greeting that a person who celebrates his or her birthday is of course, Happy Birthday to you! For a kid, a birthday celebration cannot be much happier than celebrating it with family and friends. A birthday party or celebration for everyone is generally celebrated with a Birthday cake.
2.1 Birthday Cake – There are actually a handful of information and data as to how our favorite birthday cake originated. Some experts say that it was started by the Greeks. They bake some round sweet bread that was later offered to heir Greek moon goddess Artemis. Some scholars say that the idea of the birthday cake first came from our friends in Germany. Sweet breads were made in commemoration of infant Jesus’ birthday. These ancient German celebrations later emerged as “Kinderfest”, or the young child’s birthday celebration.
Like any other thing in history. The birthday cake carries its own traditions and beliefs. During medieval times in England, they include rings, coins and thimbles in the cake’s batter. As the cake is shared and enjoyed by everyone, it was earlier believed that those who got the ring will mean wedding bells. Those who got the coins mean a wealthier life and the unlucky one who received the thimble will remain unmarried for the rest of his life. (Better check with your bakers…)
2.2 Birthday Candles. A birthday cake would not be complete without the birthday candles. Most likely, they signify the age of the celebrant. The number of candles would more likely signify or tell how old the celebrant is. (Note: It’s not always the case for older ones as they rather keep their ages to themselves rather than fill the entire cake with candles everywhere!) Sources would tell that the main purpose of the candles being lighted during a birthday celebration during those times signify the offering of prayers to the gods. Once a candle is lighted, the smoke will eventually go to heaven as these smokes were believed to contain our ancients’ prayers and wishes. This also gave way to the birthday celebration practice of the celebrant making a wish before blowing the birthday candles.
2.3 Gifts. I remember when I was a kid attending a children’s birthday party. The celebrant wouldn’t let me inside his house. I was dressed in full attire for that occasion. I even brought my invitation card in case some high profile security identification was required. But still, I was not able to get in. The main reason why? I carried no birthday gift! Nowadays, the ultimate reality or idea of a good birthday celebration is all about the gifts. They were said to be given as to scare the evil spirits away during those times. Nowadays, birthday gifts come in various ways: toys, clothes, jewelry, birthday cards, etc. Gifts are now given to signify how thankful and how important the day is for the celebrant.
3. Birthdays around the world. Upon seeing and learning the factors involving a good birthday celebration, its roots and significance, let’s now join the birthday parties being celebrated around the world…..
.1. Africa – “Veels geluk met jou verjaarsdag!” That is the way they greet an African birthday celebrant. Children in Ghana are treated with “oto” on their birthdays. “Oto” is a patty made from mashed sweet potatoes and eggs. Some places in Ghana have this “krada” celebration. A leaf soaked in water overnight is used to clean them. They are believed to purify and cleanse the inner souls.
The Egyptians are much festive when a baby turns one year old. Celebrations are done with music, fun and dance. They likewise use fruits and flowers to decorate their places as these symbolize life and growth.
Kenya celebrates a different one as the mother wraps the child and brings the baby to a place where the cattle are kept. It is there too that the father and their friends wait for their arrival and for the child’s christening.
Nigeria also has festive birthday celebrations were they celebrate it with roasted goats and cows on over a hundred of guests. (A food catering business maybe a big one there, I assume.)
3.2 Asia – In India, the hair of the child is removed upon reaching a year old (tonsure). The celebrant child usually are made to wear colorful clothes and made to ask the blessings of the elders by touching their feet. In school, birthday celebrants distribute chocolates to the whole class (That is sure a lot of sweets!).
Our Chinese pals have their own birthday celebration rendition. Elders and family members gather around the one-year old child and bring toys such as books, dolls and coins. It is believed that the child’s pursuit in life will depend on the object that he/she picks.
In Japan, your 3rd, 5th, and 7th birthdays count the most because you will get to participate in their annual “Seven-Five-Three” festival. Participants usually visit shrines to thank God for their health and strength.
Our Nepal friends usually put a rice yogurt with color on the forehead of the child on his birthdays. (Careful Ma, don’t place it while its hot!)
3.3 Europe – Our Friends in Germany call their children’s birthday celebrations as “Geburtstagsparty”. The celebrants are treated in a good way for it’s a complete time-out from household chores and homework. They prepare a wreath with a “lifecandle” that is lighted and kept burning all day. The celebrants get to blow the candle after dinner.
Britain still practices the ancient way of celebrating birthdays by placing thimble and coins in the cake’s batter. The on who will get the coin will be wealthy and the one who gets the thimble will never marry. (Pass the cake, please…)
Ireland has a funny way of celebrating birthdays. Believed that it is for good luck, a child is lifted upside down and gets “bumped” on the floor! These bumps will depend how old the child is. An extra bump is also added for good luck (Ouch!)
Garlands are the decorations of a celebrant’s door in Lituania. The same is made to sit into a well-decorated chair and is lifted by members of the family three times. (Long live!)
4. Other facts you might ‘wanna know:
- It was sisters Mildred and Patty Hill who wrote the melody of that chart-busting song of all time: the “Happy Birthday” song.
- Those who were born on a leap year (February 29) usually celebrate their birthdays on the 1st day of March (Now, why didn’t I think of that…)
- When you reach 80, 90 or 100 years old in England, you’ll receive a telegram from the Queen. (A party invitation, I presume)
- In the US, the most common birth date is October 5 and May 22 as the least common.
- The most expensive birthday celebration belongs to the Sultan of Brunei in his 50th Birthday last July 13, 1996. He spent a whopping US$27.7 million. (That amount for a birthday party?)
- Tuesday is considered the day of the week where most babies are born. Sunday is listed at the bottom.
Well, whatever or however we want our birthdays to be, festive, traditional or special, I guess we all have to thank whoever is responsible for giving us that additional healthy and good year in our lives.